The Boy Scouts of America have become the target of many antidiscrimination organizations. Their actions against those that they feel do not belong in their organization have been placed in the limelight of American politics. Every person has a different view about the right of the Boy Scouts of America to discriminate against those with different lifestyles than what they permit in their codes and laws as a private organization. The Boy Scouts of America should have the right to set their own standards of membership, including the barring of homosexuals because they are a private organization.
Those against the Boy Scouts of America actions would argue that the organization is violating the First Amendment rights given to the homosexual members removed from scouting. The First Amendment states that ?Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech? (Danzer 158).
The Scout Oath says, ?On my honor I will do my best?to keep myself?morally straight? (BSA 9). This is used as the Boy Scouts of America?s backing when they are criticized for barring homosexuals. The Boy Scout headquarters said ?that Scouting ?specifically forbids membership to homosexuals?? (lambdalegal.org). The truth is that the Scout Oath does not clearly say it is unacceptable to be gay. When they say ?morally straight?, they aren?t saying what is morally right, but are rather expecting everyone to share the same morals. Everybody has a different view of what is morally acceptable. In the eyes of a homosexual, homosexuality is morally acceptable. A specific case in which a homosexual lost his membership to the Boy Scouts was in the case of Boy Scouts of America and Monmouth Council v. Dale in 2000. An Eagle Scout named James Dale got his membership revoked from the Boy Scouts for publicly admitting he was gay even though New Jersey law prohibits ??discrimination?in places of public accommodation? on the basis of sexual orientation as well as race, religion, and other personal characteristics? (lambdalegal.org). The Boy Scouts should not be able to bypass state laws. The New Jersey Supreme Court even ?agreed with Dale that the BSA is subject to this law and therefore could not kick Dale out of the organization simply because he is gay? (lambdalegal.org). No organization should be able to bypass the laws of a state. Another case in which the Boy Scouts of America have been unconstitutional is in the fact that they have prohibited the free exercise of religion of atheists. Because of the rules written in their handbook, the Boy Scouts say they are right in their decision to terminate membership of anyone not following the guidelines of their organization. They base their belief that they made the right decision on the fact that the Scout Oath says, ?I will do my best to do my duty to God? (BSA 9). The Scout Oath on its own is unconstitutional because it is attempting to tell people how to live their lives by forcing scout members to believe in God. It shouldn?t matter if the Boy Scouts write that they don?t accept Muslims, bisexuals or anything else because the Bill of Rights is the overriding law barring the obstruction of freedom of speech and religion. The Boy Scouts of America have stepped out of the boundaries set by the Bill of Rights numerous times, and something must be done.
The Boy Scouts of America or any other private organization should not be forced to allow membership to anyone, homosexual or heterosexual. Also, the Constitution supports the Boy Scouts in their attempts to set their own standards of membership. ?The United States Supreme Court? ruled ?that the BSA had a ?right to associate? under the First Amendment that would be violated if the BSA were required to allow Dale to remain in the organization? (lambdalegal.org). This basically means the Boy Scouts have a right to do what they want as a private organization and that an outside factor cannot govern them. ?On June 28, 2000, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the Boy Scouts of America's standing as a private organization with the right to set its own membership and leadership standards? (www.scouting.org). If the United States Supreme Court is backing the Boy Scouts, they must be working legally. The Boy Scouts should be able to do what they want because even though they work with the public, they don?t rely on the public?s support and shouldn?t have to be governed by the public?s interests rather than their own. Also, allowing one gay into ?the Boy Scouts would?force the organization to send a message?that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior? (lambdalegal.org). If the Boy Scouts had to accept James Dale, they would be painting a different picture than what they are really about. Also, the Boy Scouts ?respect the rights of people and groups who hold values that differ from those encompassed in the Scout Oath and Law, and the BSA makes no effort to deny the rights of those whose views differ to hold their attitudes or opinions? (www.scouting.org). People can freely live their lives the way they want and the Boy Scouts won?t care as long as people don?t affect their organization. The Boys Scouts just want to uphold their organizations moral standards.
I feel that there should be no restriction on what the right of association can do for the organization in question. The only time I would feel differently is for a public organization affiliated with the government. The Boy Scouts of America are called a private organization for a reason. They are private and should be able to make their own decisions about who is part of their organization and should not be pushed by anyone else?s ideas. People know what they are getting into when joining the Boy Scouts through reading the Boy Scout Handbook. It is impossible to join the Boy Scouts without first reading the Scout Oath. I have firsthand experience in that. They shouldn?t complain about something that they knew about before joining. Even though I am a former Boy Scout I don?t have a bias towards them. It doesn?t matter what organization it is. Any private organization should have the right to associate. The fact that the Constitution supports the Boy Scouts in their attempts to set their own standards of membership makes me feel even stronger about my beliefs. One reason homosexuals specifically should not be allowed into the Boy Scouts of America is because even though they most likely wouldn?t do anything bad, many people would lose their comfort level and trust when out camping with the gay person. Comfort and trust of those in a scout group are two very important parts of scouting. Organizations like the Boy Scouts of America should not be forced to accept homosexuals and the United States Supreme Court has affirmed that.
An endless debate was started in the James Dale case about the conditions in which the right of association should allow organizations to terminate an avowed homosexual from a position of leadership, even though the state in question has an antidiscrimination law covering sexual orientation. Each side has key points that could prove correct, but organizations should be allowed to terminate a homosexual under any conditions, including if a state has an antidiscrimination law. The main point is that with codes and laws like the ones in the Boy Scout Oath, the effected individual knows the rules and should not become a member in the first place if they know they will later have a conflict.
Works Cited Danzer, Gerald A., et al. The Americans. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell, 1998.
?Government Ties to the Boy Scouts, Part II.? Lambda Legal. http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/documents/record?record=878. (14 November 2002).
?Position Statements?. Boy Scouts of America. http://www.scouting.org. (24 November 2002).
The Boy Scout Handbook: Boy Scouts of America. Irving, TX: Boy Scouts of America, 1998.